PEI

Why advance polls over Thanksgiving might affect voter turnout this federal election

Elections Canada has sent out dates for its advanced polls for the upcoming federal election and its left many Canadians having to choose between casting their ballots early or keeping their Thanksgiving plans.

Advance polling will be from Oct. 11 to Oct. 14

Advance polls fall on Thanksgiving weekend for the federal election. (Al MacCormick/CBC)

Elections Canada has released the dates for advance polls in the federal election, from Oct. 11 to Oct. 14, the entirety of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, including Thanksgiving Monday.

That's left Canadians with a choice between casting their ballots early or keeping their Thanksgiving plans — unless they can make it into an Elections Canada location by Oct. 15 to vote.

The agency said it's because of the Elections Act. There needs to be a week to 10 days between advanced polls and election day.

"Whatever is in the act has to be applied," said Françoise Enguehard, regional media adviser for Elections Canada in the Atlantic provinces.  

"That's been the case as far as I've been working for Elections Canada since the 2005 election and that's always been the case in my time."

Lower voter turnout?

But it's possible that having advanced polls on a holiday weekend could lead to lower voter turnout and impact the outcome of the federal election.  

In the most recent provincial election, 36 per cent of P.E.I. voters cast their ballots in the advance polls.

UPEI political science Prof. Don Desserud says any obstacle could dissuade voters from casting their ballots in the upcoming election. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

"It looks like people are taking advantage in advance polls to get a chore out of their way," UPEI political science Prof. Don Desserud said. 

"Maybe voting is not top of [people's] minds, particularly in this election, because my feeling is that this is an election that's not really capturing the imagination of the public," said Desserud.

Desserud said that advance polls on the Thanksgiving holiday could give people an easy excuse to not vote.

"This actually may very well help the party in power, in this case the Liberals, if there's no appetite to remove that party from power," he said. 

'Most people should be good. Doesn't take much time,' says Quing Li, of advance polls falling over Thanksgiving weekend. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Malpeque voter Quing Li said he was happy to see advance polls fall on the long weekend because it means his schedule will be more flexible for him to participate.

"Most people should be good. Doesn't take much time," he said.

'That's a family day'

Tim Rose, a voter in Cardigan, says he won't be voting in advance polls this federal election. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Tim Rose, who lives in the riding of Cardigan, normally casts his ballot in the advance polls but said that will not be the case this year. 

"I'm not going to do advanced polling on Thanksgiving. That's a family day," Rose said. 

"Does the Elections Act have no flexibility in terms of a national holiday? That's statutory and it's a time for people to have family get-togethers."

Linden Robinson and Haley Stewart, Charlottetown voters, say they both have plans that will preclude them from voting in the advance polls. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Linden Robinson said her holiday weekend is usually busy and this one is already scheduled full of dinners with family and friends.

"I find it really annoying because if I was able to do it, if I could take advantage of that, it would be a lot more beneficial if it wasn't on Thanksgiving weekend when we're already so busy with family," she said.

Islanders can also vote at UPEI and Holland College at polling stations on campus from Oct. 5 to Oct. 9.

Election day is on Oct. 21.

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